Saturday, April 6, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/19: Farewell Stein's, Yellow Curry, Ducks Lose a Close One -- Irish Win

1. Late in the morning, after the rain cleared away for a while, I strapped on my backpack and walked to Yoke's. The Stein's parking lot was nearly full when I strolled through it. The store is closing in two weeks and their entire inventory is marked down. I walked by a customer who was loading over a dozen Chiquita banana boxes full of breakfast cereal and other similar boxed dry goods into the bed of her pickup.

I'll forever have fun memories about this store because, in May of 1969, I hired out there as a box boy and was an employee until I got a job stripping zinc in the cell room in July, 1971. I worked at Stein's with a bunch of really fun guys and the management at the store always worked with me so that I could schedule my work hours around other things I was doing in school, with Boy Scouts, and with my involvement in basketball, baseball, and golf.

The Stein family sold the business a few years ago and it appears the new owners couldn't keep the store in Kellogg and the one in Osburn both running well, so they decided to merge the two businesses and keep the Osburn store in operation.

US Bank closed its branch uptown. Stein's is closed. The Kennaughs bought Best Shots, but it has not reopened. Plenty of vacant buildings line Main Street and McKinley uptown. I hear a new hamburger joint is going to open on McKinley. For the last thirty-five years or so, this has been the pattern in Kellogg. Several businesses seem stable, but many more just can't make it, and some people decide to give a new business a go with mixed success.

By the way, I enjoyed my walk.  I left Yoke's and turned west and walked along the south bank of the Coeur d'Alene River. I couldn't help but think of other places that have turned river banks into greenways and developed paths lined with trees and colorful plants that attract walkers and bike riders. I don't fault Kellogg for not having developed a greenway along the river. Just south of the river, the Trail of the Cd'As passes through town and is a superb path for walking, jogging, and biking. All the same, as I walked on the undeveloped dirt and grass path on the riverbank, littered with plastic spoons and discarded cardboard ice cream dishes, it was, to me, a brownway along a once dead river that is clear enough now that the river's bottom is visible, but where little vegetation grows.

Maybe it will green up as spring progresses. I'll keep walking it to find out.

I racked up close to 4000 steps and nearly two miles.

2.  In preparation for the Oregon/Baylor and the UConn/Notre Dame women's basketball games, I made a yellow curry sauce and experimented conservatively. Because I'd be the only one eating this sauce, I didn't have to be concerned with making the sauce too hot -- I wanted it to be about a 3.5 on a 5 pepper scale -- and I thought I could try to boost some flavors a bit and see how it worked out. In my favorite curry sauces, the saltiness, sweetness, and heat all assert themselves somewhat strongly. They are in balance, but I like them all to be unmistakably present. I am always trying to figure out how to simultaneously create a strong presence of ginger and I like peanut sauce a lot and so I try, when cooking for myself, to make a sauce that has the smooth qualities of a peanut sauce.

So, I whisked more curry paste than usual into an emptied can of creamy coconut milk, added a little more fish sauce and soy sauce than usual, boosted the amount of brown sugar, and minced a small chunk of fresh ginger. I regretted not having bought cilantro today and wish I'd had some fresh basil on hand, but, well, next time.  I also whisked a glob of chunky peanut butter into this sauce and put over a handful of cubed tofu and some chopped broccoli florets into the pan and cooked it all together.  As I poured this sauce over jasmine rice, another pang of regret arrested me. Peanuts would taste good on top of this dish. Again, next time.

I managed to overcome my mild regrets and enjoy my Final Four dinner. The sauce was creamy, properly (for my taste) salty, nice and sweet, but, next time, I'll try to increase the heat just a few degrees.

3. Back in February, I fell in basketball love with this year's Oregon Ducks women's basketball team. It's not the first Oregon Ducks women's basketball team I've fallen in basketball love with and I'm sure it won't be the last.

But, after today's game, those of us who love this team won't see this combination of players ever play together again.

In today's NCAA semi-final game, the Ducks lost to the Baylor Lady Bears, 72-67.

And, before I reflect a bit on this game, I will admit that I came away from this game really liking, and, of course, admiring, Baylor.

I'll start with how I see things, especially in basketball, but it applies to other sports. When two nearly evenly matched teams square off, some slight margin of difference between the two almost always determines the outcome. Coming into this game, I agreed with the experts who said Baylor would be the favorite to win.

Back on April 2, I wrote, here (in 3BT #2), that I thought the Ducks would have difficulty inside contending with Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox -- every team does --, but that a third challenge lay ahead as well in the person of Didi Richards because of her relentless defense and her uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time when Baylor's opponents turn concentrated attention on Brown and Cox, the Lady Bears' Twin Towers.

I'm not happy I was right, but I was. To me, Didi Richards' play tonight provided Baylor with that slim margin of difference that barely separated these two teams.

On the one hand, Didi Richards guarded Sabrina Ionescu for almost the entire game. Once Richards got her fourth foul, Juicy Landrum took over the task. Ionescu is 5'11" tall and Didi Richards is 6'1". Richards has long arms, quick hands and feet, and plays with the same high intensity on defense that Ionsecu plays with on offense. Didi Richards didn't shut down Ionescu, but she stilfled her. I thought Richards' length and doggedness bothered Ionescu as Richards fought over ball screens and hassled Ionescu on every possession (until Landrum assumed the assignment).

Ionescu's stats verify that Richards made her struggle. She put up 24 shots and only made 6.

And, on offense, Richards did the same thing against Oregon that she did against Iowa. She found open spots close to the basket when her taller teammates were double teamed. Cox and Brown found her, fed her, and Richards' 15 points, added to Cox's 21 and Brown's 22 were crucial. No other Baylor players scored in double figures.

The Ducks could have won this game and very nearly did, even with Ionescu having difficulties and despite, as a team, only making 1 of their last 13 shots.

This game was tied with 40 seconds to go and, with 27 seconds to go, when Lauren Cox chased Satou Sabally off the three point line, denying her a shot that could have put the Ducks ahead by a point, and forced her to rush a two pointer that she missed, but that would have tied the game, this tilt was very much undecided.

But there you have it. Lauren Cox made a decisive defensive play. DiDi Richards had made several throughout the game. All game long, Cox and Brown made it difficult, nearly impossible, for Ruthy Hebard to score inside where all season long, she's been, in Coach Kelly Graves' words, The Hammer.

I am prone as an observer of basketball to favor defense over offense. I know that.

So, in the end, to me, Baylor's defense prevailed. It provided that slim margin of difference between these two superb teams. I thought the Ducks gave their all on defense. Ruthy Hebard played really hard down low, mostly against Kalani Brown, in an effort that had to have left her exhausted. But, with 40 seconds to go, something broke down defensively for the Ducks and Chloe Jackson found an open lane to the cup and scored an easy tie breaking layup. I suspect it was because of all that attention Brown and Cox required.

So, now Baylor will play the joyous, quick, fast-breaking defending national champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the championship game. Down nine points to UConn with eight minutes to play, the Irish rode the sudden hot shooting of the exuberant Arike Ogunbowale (14 fourth quarter points), the steady play of Jessica Shepard, and the inside shot blocking of Brianna Turner to a thrilling come from behind 81-76 victory.

What will happen Sunday?

Baylor beat Oregon without making a single three point basket -- that's almost unheard of in 21st century hoops. Baylor sets up their offense close to the basket. They patiently look for ways to pound the ball into Brown and Cox. They don't fast break much. They play superb defense.

Notre Dame wants get out in the open court and score quick baskets off of steals and blocked shots. They are an accomplished three point shooting team.

Can Notre Dame get Baylor into a faster game? How will the Irish's Shepard and Turner perform defensively against Baylor's Brown and Cox? Will Ogunbowale go off against Baylor? If she does, it will be with the long, quick, and tall Didi Richards hounding her.  Will Notre Dame be able to stop Richards from scoring those sneaky points she loves to hit along the baseline and near the hoop?

I don't know.

But, I'm intrigued.

I like both teams a lot.

And, I can hardly wait to find out on Sunday how this game comes out.

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